Study improv as an acting technique and its use in the development of a Second City-style revue in this advanced program, the cornerstone of The Second City Training Center. Students in the Conservatory program build upon the fundamentals of improv, advance their scenic and character skills, explore forms and styles and learn how to use improv to create material for a satiric comedy revue.
An audition is required for entrance into the Conservatory program. All students must have completed at least one full year of a multi-level improv training program and at least one acting class at the post-high school level. The improv training prerequisite if met at the Chicago Training Center is completion of Improv Levels A-E or equivalent, Improv Express Level 3, or Improv for Actors 2. The acting training prerequisite can be met by completing Acting 1.
Interested auditioners should first submit their training information via this submission form. The approval to audition will be confirmed by a staff member or else another program will be recommended. Auditioners who have not taken classes with us are also recommended to create a student profile when applying. Students who have completed part or all of the audition requirements at The Second City should submit the form or contact the Training Center to ensure the audition approval is placed on their student record.
Please contact the Training Center with any questions about the training prerequisites or eligibility.
Students are allowed to audition for two consecutive terms, but if not approved, they must then wait at least one term before reauditioning. Check out our Audition Guide for helpful information!
December 1 (audition sign-up opens November 17)
Conservatory Level 1 is open to adults who wish to study improv as an acting technique and perform in a Second City-style revue upon completion of the program. Students learn advanced improv techniques and gain experience in material generation in order to create and perform in their revue at the end of the program. Conservatory Level 1 introduces students to the crucial skills and concepts necessary for creating a Second City-style revue.
Students in Level 1 learn how to perform at The Second City. Students are taught advanced improvisation, starting from the ground up. The basis of Conservatory Level 1 lies in truth. Students learn the importance of being truthful on stage. Much emphasis is placed on a strong truthful foundation for comedic work and, in that truth, students find the essential ingredient for satire.
Level 1 offers a robust mix of improv, writing, acting, and lecture and discussion. Students are introduced to the concept of improvisation as a means for finding and refining material. Students are taught to emphasize two-person scene work, listening, and patience.
Conservatory Level 1 meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term.
Conservatory Level 2 broadens the opinions of the actor and introduces them to the wider satirical world. It is the goal of this level to remove some of the typical stigma attached to creating satire and to explore the methods used to create a Second City-style revue.
Students gain knowledge that helps demystify the concept of satire and point of view. By learning to focus on point of view, students uncover the truth that choice is often motivated by observation and opinion.
Level 2 consists of exercises that focus on expanding a student’s reference level to include the world around us. Forming strong opinions is also a topic of focus in Conservatory Level 2, and as with many other improv-based learning experiences, the concept of intense “Yes, And-ing” is also explored.
Conservatory Level 2 meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term. Students will need to re-audition with their class group to continue into Conservatory Level 3.
Conservatory Level 3 introduces students to skills and concepts that are crucial for the development of the type of sketch and improvisation performed at The Second City.
The focus of Conservatory Level 3 is commitment — to choices in scenes, to characters, and to playing without fear. Students learn how to be uncomfortable with the uncomfortable, how to break out of habits and limits, and how to embrace content that challenges.
Students engage in exercises that focus on the skill areas of committing to choices, generating characters through physicality, playing against type and expanding character range, overcoming fear and playing with abandon, clowning, and tackling sensitive or taboo topics. Students also engage in workshops that concentrate on musical improv. Students will also be given areas of concentration to focus on outside of class, not unlike homework assignments or outside research.
Conservatory Level 3 meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term. There is a brief performance during the term. It is open to the public, and emphasizes committed characters and scene work.
In Conservatory Level 4, students learn about sketch comedy forms and styles, adding to the skills needed to create a Second City-style revue at the end of the program. Conservatory Level 4 takes the abilities gained from previous Conservatory levels and shifts the focus to generating sketch and improv material that can exist in a Second City-style running order. Some of the pitches, scenes, and improv forms that are developed in this level can make it into the final performance after Conservatory Level 6.
Students learn about the varied forms of improvisation and sketch, scenic structure, and the construction of scene and show arcs. Utilizing the tools acquired in previous levels, students turn improvisation into scripted scenes through re-improvisation.
Students improvise through many forms and styles, including musical types. Students also experience an introduction to rehearsal culture, which includes pitching ideas, receiving notes on scenes, and theatrical elements like stage pictures, needle drops, atmosphere, etc. Students then improvise, receive director feedback, and re-improvise with the goal of achieving final scripted sketches that could be seen in a Second City-style revue.
Conservatory Level 4 meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term. There are two brief performances during the term that are open to the public.
Conservatory Levels 5 & 6 involve creating and performing in an original Second City revue. At the completion of this course, students will have put up a Second City-style revue.
Conservatory Level 5 teaches students the nuts and bolts of putting up a revue. Students learn how to pitch a scene to others so their ideas get developed. Students learn the importance of runners and callbacks to making a successful revue. The differences between first act scenes and second act scenes is also explored. Variety, balance, Openers and Closers — all these aspects of a revue will be worked on as students develop their show.
These final Conservatory classes also teach students the subtle nuances of what makes a scene and a show work or not work. Students learn how to take a scene that isn’t quite working and tweak it until it hits. There is opportunity for students to build a strong ensemble with their castmates as they work on group scenes and songs. Students learn how to take a successful improvised scene and convert it to a scripted scene. Students also learn how to incorporate a director’s notes and collaborate to improve scenes.
Conservatory Level 6 allows students to take everything they’ve learned and apply it to putting up an actual revue. Conservatory Level 6 is an active rehearsal process that culminates in an eight-show run of a revue students created. Students experience the thrill of putting up material they created in front of a live audience. They discover how the revue acts like a living entity — one scene early on can affect a completely different scene later on. Students learn crucial concepts like respecting chair sets, appreciating their stage manager, and surrendering to the needs of the show.
Conservatory Levels 5 & 6 both meet once a week for three hours over eight week terms. For Conservatory Level 5, there are two brief performances during the term. Once students begin Conservatory Level 6, there are four 15-minute previews, then a full eight-week run.
This year-long supplemental training program aims to develop our best Conservatory graduates into strong performers who are talented and skilled enough to get hired professionally by The Second City. Serving as a premier showcase for these carefully selected Conservatory graduates, house teams are cast through auditions roughly 2-3 times per…